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The financial implications of merging proactive CCTV monitoring and directed police patrol: a cost–benefit analysis

Abstract

Objectives

This study presents a cost–benefit analysis of an intervention pairing proactive CCTV monitoring with directed police patrol in Newark, NJ. A recent randomized control trial found that the strategy generated significant crime reductions in treatment areas relative to control areas. The current study focuses on the financial implications of the experimental strategy through a cost–benefit analysis.

Methods

The study begins by measuring the costs and benefits associated with the experimental strategy, the findings of which can inform agencies with existing CCTV infrastructure. Follow-up analyses measure the costs and benefits of the intervention for agencies absent existing CCTV infrastructure, meaning a CCTV system would have to be funded in addition to the intervention outputs. Alongside overall benefits, this study presents the tangible cost savings afforded to the Criminal Justice system as well as to each of the separate criminal justice (CJ) system components: Policing, Courts, and Corrections.

Results

We found the experimental strategy to be highly cost effective for agencies with existing CCTV infrastructure. However, when the cost of the CCTV system is considered, the strategy is largely cost prohibitive. While the cumulative societal and criminal justice findings suggest some evidence of a modest cost savings, the strategy is highly cost prohibitive for each of the individual CJ system components when CCTV system costs are included.

Conclusions

Results suggest that the experimental strategy is a worthwhile investment for agencies with existing CCTV infrastructure. Agencies absent CCTV may want to consider whether funds would be better allocated towards alternate strategies.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For more information on the unit of analysis operationalization, see Piza et al. (2015: 50–51).

  2. 2.

    These specific crime types were selected for the evaluation in recognition of previous research finding CCTV effect to be greatest on automobile crime in car parks and limited in public places, specifically against such street-level activity as the aforementioned crimes (Caplan et al. 2011; Phillips 1999; Welsh and Farrington 2002, 2009).

  3. 3.

    http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm. All other cost estimates included in this study were converted via this same method.

  4. 4.

    McCollister et al. (2010) did not provide any cost estimates for social disorder, drug offenses, or weapon possession due to their status as “victimless crimes.” Therefore, for these crime categories, we used the cost estimates provided by La Vigne et al. (2011). While these estimates include intangible costs, we consider this discrepancy as inconsequential given the very low costs ($221.49 for social disorder, $39.70 for drug offenses, and $281.04 for weapon possession).

  5. 5.

    It should be noted that this likely underestimates the true costs of shootings and stabbings, and consequently the cost–benefit of the intervention, since these incidents may pose a high risk of fatality to the victim. Furthermore, while no crime incidents during the pre- or post-periods were classified as homicide, this is likely due to the use of calls-for-service data, as callers likely did not have knowledge of the victim’s status. Callers are likely to report the occurrence of a shooting or stabbing incident rather than the death of a victim, even in instances that the victim died.

  6. 6.

    All hourly wages include a fringe benefit of 35.5 %. Fringe rates for individual NPD officers range from 33 % to 38 % due to the variety of benefits packages offered to employees. Therefore, we used 35.5 % since it is the median value between these two extremes.

  7. 7.

    Officer ranks were determined from the log sheets.

  8. 8.

    We acknowledge that future implementations of the CCTV Directed Patrol strategy (in Newark or elsewhere) could involve personnel working during their regularly scheduled tours of duty, meaning that they would not be paid at the higher overtime rate. Using the regular hourly wages, rather than overtime wages, did not alter the findings of the study. For the interested party, cost calculations and findings incorporating the alternate regular wage calculations can be obtained from the lead author.

  9. 9.

    http://www.eia.gov/petroleum/gasdiesel

  10. 10.

    Fuel prices are not uniform throughout the year, but fluctuate according to seasonal variations in supply and demand. Therefore, fuel costs may have significantly differed if the RCT were conducted at a different time of the year, or extended for a longer period of time. Impact to the current study is minimal, as fuel costs ($1,025.51) represent only approximately 1 % of the existing system expenses and a fraction of a percent in the non-existing system expenses. Nonetheless, the reader should be mindful of the potential impact variable fuel costs can have in cost–benefit analysis particularly when fuel costs comprise a larger percentage of expenditures.

  11. 11.

    After each arrest, the officers transported all arrestees to the nearest police precinct for processing. While at the precinct, officers used the department’s Records Management System (RMS) to complete all necessary reports and a background check for the arrestees. RMS captures the time an officer logs on and submits final reports for an arrest. The sum of the minutes between these two time periods was considered the arrest process time.

  12. 12.

    This assumed an average driving speed of 20 miles per hour. The speed limit on local roads (which primarily comprised the target areas of the experiment) in Newark is 25 miles per hour. We used an estimated speed of 20 miles per hour to account for the periodic slowdowns (e.g. traffic) or stoppages (e.g. waiting at a red light) that the patrol cars encountered.

  13. 13.

    http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=30683&id=29326&id=26232&id=24159

  14. 14.

    These salaries represent the top salary-step of NPD patrol officers and sergeants, respectively. This salary-step was used to reflect the structure of the NPD in 2011. In November 2010, budget constraints led the city to lay off 167 officers (Star Ledger 2010). This represented over 13 % of the agency, virtually all junior-level officers. The remaining officers were senior-level, with salaries at or near the top salary-step.

  15. 15.

    BLS did not provide national salaries for police supervisors. Therefore, we used differences in Newark officer wages to determine national estimates. For example, hourly wages for Sergeants were 13 % higher than Patrol Officers in Newark. Therefore, officer wages were increase by 13 % in the sensitivity analysis to account for Sergeant wages. The same method was used to estimate national wages for Lieutenants and Captains.

  16. 16.

    Since Caplan et al. (2011) found that the first phase of cameras produced a reduction in auto theft, we explored whether a system-wide auto theft reduction may provide the benefit increase necessary to produce a consistent cost benefit. Caplan et al. (2011) found that auto theft reduced by an average of 1.81 incidents (from 7.66 to 5.85) per camera during the first 13 months of the CCTV operation. This translates to an average of 0.03 (1.81/56 weeks) incidents reduced per camera per week. With 32 cameras in the target areas, we estimated that 1.03 (32 x 0.03) auto theft incidents may have reduced per week and that 11.37 (1.03 x 11) auto thefts may have been prevented during the 11-week experiment. We multiplied the estimated auto theft reduction by the costs of motor vehicle theft (converted to 2011 dollars) reported by La Vigne et al. (2011) and McCollister et al. (2010): $6,387.64 in Victim costs, $2,794.72 in Policing costs, $3,802.91 in Court costs, and $1,310.12 in Corrections costs, totaling $7,907.75 in CJ System costs and $14,295.39 in Overall costs. Multiplying these figures by the estimated auto theft reduction produces a cost benefit of $31,775.97 for Policing, $43,239.09 for Courts, $14,896.09 for Corrections, $89,911.12 for the CJ System and an Overall savings of $162,538.58. We compared the auto theft benefits to the Cost Savings Sums presented in Table 3 to determine whether the motor vehicle cost savings could have helped produce a cost benefit for the disaggregate CJ System components. This is a liberal estimate, since we assumed that the estimated auto theft reduction was identical for each of the temporal periods (Tours, Days, and 11 weeks). The estimated auto theft reduction increased the benefits by between 3.34 % (Tours) and 6.75 % (11 weeks) for Policing, between 6.75 % (11 weeks) and 12.11 % (Days) for Courts, and between 4.27 % (Tours), 9.53 % (11 weeks) for Corrections, between 6.35 % (Days) and 7.09 % (11 weeks) for CJ System, and between 7.63 % (tours) and 12.45 % (11 weeks) for the Overall calculations. In each case, these added benefits fall well below the increase needed to covert a cost deficit into a cost benefit.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the National Institute of Justice, Grant Number 2010-IJCX-0026.We are truly indebted to a number of individuals at the Newark Police Department whose support made this project possible, including former Director Garry McCarthy, former Director Samuel DeMaio, former Chief-of-Staff Gus Miniotis, Captain (retired) Phil Gonzalez, Lieutenant (retired) Joseph Alferi, Lieutenant Angelo Zamora, Sergeant Marvin Carpenter, and Sergeant Catherine Gasavage. Early versions of this paper were presented at the 2015 Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and American Society of Criminology annual meetings. We thank those in attendance for their insightful questions and feedback. We are especially grateful to the CCTV operators, patrol supervisors, and patrol officers who worked on the experiment for diligently carrying out their experimental tasks. We also thank Editor-in-Chief Lorraine Mazerolle, Associate Editor Cynthia Lum, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Eric L. Piza.

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Piza, E.L., Gilchrist, A.M., Caplan, J.M. et al. The financial implications of merging proactive CCTV monitoring and directed police patrol: a cost–benefit analysis. J Exp Criminol 12, 403–429 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-016-9267-x

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Keywords

  • Cost–benefit analysis
  • CCTV
  • Situational crime prevention
  • Directed patrol
  • Policing